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Statements from Battleground Republicans on Vote for H.R. 2 Sound Like They Didn’t Bother to Read the Extreme Anti-Immigrant Bill

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On May 11, Republicans passed H.R. 2, which opponents labeled  the Child Deportation Act. Just two Republicans joined every Democrat who voted in opposing the legislation. Republican House members in tough battleground districts and those who hold themselves out as so-called sensible moderates on the issue delivered critical support for the legislation and gave a win to the extremists and obstructionists in their party. 

The bill is not a serious policy proposal for addressing the challenges at the border. It’s all politics that is far too often laced with rhetorical echos of white nationalist conspiracies that create the climate for hate-fueled violence. 

Over the months, as it wound its way through the House and even from the very beginning of floor debate, Republicans promoted the Child Deportation Act with white nationalist conspiracy theories about “replacement” and “invasion” that have inspired multiple domestic terrorist attacks. Rep. Paul Gosar, who has very close ties to white nationalists, touted the bill’s passage, claiming that his state “is getting pummeled by the flood of invading illegals.” Rep. Majorie Taylor Greene tweeted, “H.R. 2, the Secure The Border Act, just passed the Republican-led House. The GOP is fighting to stop the invasion.”

America’s Voice Executive Director Vanessa Cárdenas reacting to the House passage of  H.R. 2 said

“House Republicans’ passage of H.R.2 is a perfect encapsulation of the GOP’s dangerous descent on immigration – it’s a grab bag of cruel and unworkable policies at odds with the national interest and it’s more about political attack ads and MAGA fundraising than real solutions.”

The legislation is the kind of anti-immigrant extremism that makes Stephen Miller giddy and receives vocal support from hate groups, including FAIR. The GOP bill would gut asylum, increase child and family detention, and create a show-me-your-papers scenario in the midst of future natural disaster relief efforts. Beyond cruelty, there are no solutions in the bill. The centerpiece is, again, Trump’s wasteful and ineffective wall. Meanwhile, the GOP legislation would destroy legal pathways, including parole programs that create new legal pathways to the U.S. that alleviate pressures at the border. (Read a more detailed outline of H.R. 2, here.)

For Republicans in Democratic leaning districts or who have positioned themselves as immigration moderates, what happen on a different bill also backed by McCarthy and GOP hardliners is instructive. During the GOP House budget bill debate, The New York Times reported, “Beseeching his colleagues privately to back the bill, Mr. McCarthy repeatedly told them to ignore the substance of the measure, which would never become law, and instead focus on the symbolic victory.” 

Either afraid of the extremism in the anti-immigration bill or unaware of its contents, these so-called moderate Republicans gave it critical support, and several of their statements read as if they passed a moderate proposal that paves the way for future reforms. Given the statements we see from some of these members, we have to wonder if what happened on the budget bill also happened on H.R. 2 because what they said about the bill they supported doesn’t reflect the substance of what they voted for. In fact, what was actually in the Child Deportation Act was closer to the hardline absolutism offered by Reps. Gosar and Greene. 

Here’s a compilation of the soft-peddling by GOP moderates and frontliners:

  • Rep. Marc Molinaro (NY-19) falsely asserts that H.R.2 helps tackle the fentanyl crisis, but it does not. He also claims the bill is about “streamlining the asylum process, and keeping families together.” Molinaro is correct if by “streamlining,” he means preventing migrants from accessing the process altogether. Molinaro also failed to mention the bill he voted for would keep families together in detention and deportation, not in the safety of the United States. He ends with the laughable line, “we need to put the partisan rhetoric aside and deliver a bipartisan solution,” in a statement about supporting a wholly partisan bill packed with partisan rhetoric that provides nothing in the way of solutions.
  • “Many industries in the Central Valley, including agriculture, rely heavily on immigrant labor. While these workers play an essential role in feeding America, many of them live in fear because of our broken immigration system,” David Valadao (CA-22) said in a statement attempting to justify his vote on this extreme piece of legislation. But instead of standing up to his party and working to deliver solutions that would eliminate the fear of his constituents and their families and improve the agricultural economy that the US relies on, he helped pass legislation that would only serve to create more chaos and fear.   
  • In his statement supporting H.R. 2, Rep. Juan Ciscomani (AZ-06) again asserted his own immigrant heritage and falsely asserted the “bill is a step away from the chaos we are seeing and a step closer to helping others achieve the American Dream I’ve been so blessed to live.” In reality, H.R. 2 would do the exact opposite.  
  • In her statement supporting H.R. 2, Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer (OR-05) talked about the urgent fentanyl crisis, but H.R.2 does not help tackle the issue. Her suggestion otherwise is disingenuous at best. She goes on to say “I also believe this legislation could have gone further and provided a pathway to lawful permanent residence for noncitizens brought to the U.S. as children. They deserve stability and a fair chance, and this is an issue I’ll be addressing moving forward.” But instead of standing up to the extremists in her party, Chavez-DeRemer helped pass a cruel deterrence-only approach, the same approach that has failed for decades. And she again promoted her own immigrant heritage saying she would work “to ensure future generations are afforded the same opportunities that my family had by encouraging safe and legal immigration,” despite voting for the exact opposite for a bill that could close off many safe and legal channels for migration.
  • In his statement supporting H.R. 2, Rep. Tom Kean (NJ-07) falsely asserts that H.R.2 helps tackle the fentanyl crisis, but it does not. He also claims, “With this legislation, America will continue to shine bright for those across the world who seek the American Dream, while still supporting a robust system of legal immigration that upholds and respects the rule of law.” It sounds like he didn’t read the bill he voted for.  
  • In his statement supporting H.R. 2, Rep. Mike Lawler (NY-17) named the fact that his wife is an immigrant but tried to justify his support for the bill by peddling the debunked and pernicious myth about a supposed “open border.”
  • Tony Gonzales (TX-23) got a lot of press attention by vocally opposing his party on anti-immigrant proposals, this year challenging fellow Republican Chip Roy on an anti-asylum proposal that would even block unaccompanied migrant children from seeking protections. Gonzales slammed the proposal as “not Christian” and “anti-American.” He went even further in a tweet, adding that “Anyone who thinks a 3 page anti-immigration bill with 0% chance of getting signed into law is going to solve the border crisis should be buying beach front property in AZ.”  “I’m not this crazy, extremist Republican,” Gonzales said earlier this year. “I’m jumping up and down, pushing against my party when I think it’s right, looking for ways to solve problems.” If he’s truly solutions-focused, this bill isn’t it. But apparently, it’s just all bark, no bite, as he caved and provided the critical support H.R. 2 needed to pass.

In the end, the roll call vote was 219-213, meaning that if any three of those listed above had switched their vote and voted in alignment with the statements they put out, the measure would have failed, sending an unmistakable message to the party and leadership that immigration hardliners went too far.